Paul wrote the epistle to the Philippians (Phil. 1:1). The apostle ministered to the church in Philippi and was familiar with the believers there (Acts 16:12; 20:1-6). The epistle contains many personal references to the apostle, such as his stay in prison (Phil. 1:12-26), his personal interaction with Epaphroditus (2:25-30), and his personal testimony (Phil. 3:4-7). The apostle’s authorship is beyond doubt and has not been seriously questioned from the early church to the present day.
The date of Paul’s epistle depends on which imprisonment he was enduring while he wrote Philippians. There are three main views: Ephesus, Caesarea, and Rome. Given that there is no definitive evidence supporting Paul’s being imprisoned in Ephesus this view is the least likely. He was in prison in Caesarea (AD 57-59), but Paul’s comments about the palace (Phil. 1:13) and his statement about the possibility of impending death (Phil. 1:20-26) do not seem to fit as well with Caesarea as they do with Rome. The traditional view sees Paul writing to the believers in Philippi during the latter end of his Roman imprisonment around AD 61 or 62.
Paul writes to encourage the believers to joyfully persevere in the gospel in spite of present difficulties and trying circumstances, expressing confidence that the God who began a good work in them will complete it (Phil. 1:6).
To encourage faithful believers and spur them on to further humility, unity, joy, and peace by an undistracted pursuit of Christ and His likeness.
The Contribution of Philippians to Redemptive Revelation
Epaphroditus’s return to Philippi occasioned the writing of Philippians as Paul corresponded with the Christians in Philippi through him (Phil. 2:25). Throughout the letter, Paul expresses his love for them and his continued prayers on their behalf (Phil. 1:3-8; 4:10). As Paul wrote, he was imprisoned and wrote to inform the Philippians of his present situation, that his chains have been for the advancement of the gospel (Phil. 1:12-18). In light of the sufferings that God ordains for His church (Phil. 1:29), Paul encourages the church to Christlike unity and humility (Phil. 1:27-2:18) and warns of the false teachers who threaten the purity of the gospel by calling the Philippians to return to Judaism (Phil. 3:1-21).
Paul highly commended this faithful church and called them to make it their highest ambition to know Christ better and be more like Him, for He is our joy and peace. Several themes contribute to this great river of blessedness. First, Paul assures them of his love for them and his continued prayers to God on their behalf (Phil. 1:3-8). Second, he writes to them concerning his present situation in prison. He reminds those who possibly misunderstood his choices that led to his imprisonment that what has taken place has been for the advancement of the gospel (Phil. 1:12-18). Third, Paul encourages the church to strive for unity and harmony in the midst of their own difficulties and trials, pointing them to the ultimate example of humility and selflessness, Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:27-2:18). Fourth, Paul warns the church of false teachers who threaten the purity of the gospel by returning to Judaism, exhorting the believers to continue pursuing Christ and following the pattern set by the apostle himself (Phil. 3:1-21). Fifth, Paul expresses thanks to the church for their gift to him (Phil. 4:10) and exhorts them to receive Epaphroditus with gladness and to hold him in high regard (Phil. 2:25-30).
Philippians reminds Christians that though they often find themselves in difficult circumstances, this should not make them call God’s love and care into question. Rather, trials are used to further the witness of the gospel and to mature Christians in their faith and sanctification. Paul reminds the Philippian believers that God has not only given the gift of faith but also the gift of suffering for His sake (Phil. 1:29). Paul applies this to his own circumstances in prison and to the circumstances of the believers to whom he is writing. Even though trials often tempt believers to become divided, Paul encourages them to embrace suffering and give themselves to selfless, Christlike living. While life on the timeline between the work of grace begun and the work of grace completed is often hard, Paul expresses confidence that God’s grace will sustain them (Phil. 1:6). Paul also encourages believers that regardless of life’s difficulties, joy ought to characterize Christians. Neither joy nor contentment are rooted in circumstances, either good or bad, but in Jesus Christ. In order to lead Christians to greater Christlikeness, Paul pens one of the most beautiful statements of Christology (Phil. 2:6-11). If Christ, who is God, joyfully and humbly took on humanity to give Himself in death for others, then we, too, can esteem others better than ourselves as we press on toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
- Introduction (Phil. 1:1-11)
- Paul’s Rejoicing in Present Circumstances (Phil. 1:12-26)
- Gospel Advancement through Imprisonment (Phil. 1:12-13)
- Gospel Advancement through Preaching Christ (Phil. 1:14-18)
- Living and Dying Is Viewed as Gaining Christ (Phil. 1:19-26)
- Paul’s Exhortations to the Church (Phil. 1:27-2:18)
- Live a Life Consistent with the Gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27-30)
- Live in Humble, Selfless Unity with the Body of Christ (Phil. 2:1-11)
- Live as Lights in a Dark World (Phil. 2:12-18)
- Paul’s Report Concerning Timothy and Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:19-30)
- Paul’s Warnings (Phil. 3:1-21)
- Paul’s Warning against Judaizers (Phil. 3:1-11)
- Paul’s Personal Testimony of Advancing in the Gospel (Phil. 3:12-16)
- Paul’s Warning against Lawlessness (Phil. 3:17-21)
- Paul’s Concluding Exhortations and Thanksgiving (Phil. 4:1-23)
Extracted from: Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Notes(Beeke, Joel R. 2015. Reformation Heritage Books).